In April 2008, Senior Special Agents Pete Chrisley and Steve Derrick of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division completed an equipment investigation that can only be described as “historic,” and entered the industry record books with a recovery of multiple machines worth an estimated $4 million.
The National Equipment Register (NER) spoke about the case with Senior Special Agent Pete Chrisley, who was quick to point out that the investigation’s success resulted from the multi-agency effort: “I would like to mention Detective Jennifer Flowers of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, Detectives Neil Rouse and James Lee of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Dewitt Coleman of the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office and Agent Walt Woloszczuk of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). These individuals and organizations were actively involved in the recovery efforts.”
NER: How many machines were recovered as a result of your investigation?
SSA Chrisley: Thirty-one is the total piece count. Among the recovered units are four CAT 320 excavators, two CAT D6 dozers, two CAT 930G loaders, two CAT 730 off-road trucks, three CAT 420D backhoes, a CAT motor grader, Volvo L-70 loader, John Deere 310SG backhoe, Kubota KT37 and Komatsu PC27MR mini-excavators, Ingersoll Rand roller, Kubota farm tractor, Monaco motor home, a Mack truck and numerous smaller machines and trailers. Most of the recovered pieces are late models.
NER: Did the original thefts of these machines occur in one state or was the theft geography wider?
SSA Chrisley: The majority of the equipment was stolen from North Carolina and South
Carolina. Three pieces were stolen from owners in West Virginia.
NER: How was this investigation initiated?
SSA Chrisley: This case has approximately eight suspects involved. Two of the suspects were independently in possession of two stolen Caterpillar backhoes. In an attempt to launder the stolen units, each of them decided to swap the machine for another, not realizing that the other’s backhoe was actually also stolen. The backhoes were swapped, and one of the suspects subsequently sold the backhoe to a good faith purchaser. A little while later, the innocent purchaser attempted to buy a fuel cap for his new backhoe and contacted the local Caterpillar dealership supplying them with the equipment’s product identification number (PIN). The Caterpillar dealership determined that the backhoe was reported stolen, and contacted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Vehicle and License Crime Unit requesting an investigation.
NER: What was the biggest challenge that you and your colleagues faced while pursuing this investigation?
SSA Chrisley: In most cases, the PINs were altered to some extent, and we had to use various means to determine the correct PINs. Another challenge came as most of the equipment was not currently listed in the National Crime Information Center’s database (NCIC) as active thefts, while some machines had been listed with inaccurate PINs. Several different methods were used to identify the equipment and its legitimate ownership, including NICB and NER databases, as well as manufacturers’ and dealers’ records.
In addition to expert support, professionalism, and sheer persistence, all agencies involved worked diligently to reach the common goal of recovering as much equipment as possible.
Source: National Equipment Register